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Best Overall: HP Pavilion Wave at Amazon
"It delivers exceptional performance for the size, with plenty of power to spare."
Best for Gaming: Lenovo Legion C530 Cube at lenovo.com
"Built with one-touch, tool-free access to all the inner workings you might want to upgrade later on."
Best for Business: HP ProDesk 400 at Amazon
"Designed to hold up for more than 120,000 hours of use."
Best Budget: Lenovo IdeaCentre 310S at Walmart
"The 500GB of hard drive storage has more than enough space for pictures, videos, and applications."
Best Alternative to Windows: Acer CXI3 Chromebox at Amazon
"Browsing the web with 20 tabs open and streaming 4K video won’t slow you down."
Runner-Up, Best for Gaming: MSI Trident 3 Arctic at us.msi.com
"One of the smallest VR-ready PCs ever made."
Best Value: ASUS VivoMini PC at Amazon
"The VESA support for wall mounting makes it the perfect media machine."
Best Kit: Intel NUC8 Mini PC Kit at Amazon
"The smallest NUC Intel has ever created, and also the most powerful."
Best Plug and Play: Intel Compute Stick at Amazon
"The Intel Compute Stick is a truly mini PC you can take with you anywhere."
The best mini PCs look more like pieces of modern art than your run of the mill desktop. These PCs pack a ton of functionality into a relatively compact form factor making them both portable and versatile.
When looking for a mini PC, you'll want to consider if it has the ability to be upgraded. Some models are locked into whatever configuration they have out of the box, but others can have their various components swapped out down the line.
Before committing, make sure to check out our guide to getting the right desktop PC for your needs.
Excellent integrated audio
Packed mouse isn't great
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the HP Pavilion Wave for a stylish Bluetooth speaker or digital assistant. It’s actually both of these things, but it’s also a mini PC packed with plenty of features. And that unique design serves a purpose — the top of the Pavilion Wave is a parabolic speaker that directs high-quality audio (from B&O Play) 360 degrees around the room.
Our testing revealed that the Pavilion is powered by a 7th-generation quad-core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and both a hard drive and solid-state drive that are 1TB and 256GB respectively. It delivers exceptional performance for the size, with plenty of power to spare for demanding tasks like video or image editing. This PC can easily handle 4K video playback, and multi-monitor support ensures that you can watch video on one monitor and multitask on another. Built-in Amazon Alexa adds voice control so you can check a calendar, create shopping lists, or ask questions without pulling up a browser.
The compact design weighs a nominal six pounds and measures only 9.25 inches in height.
"It’s a bit overpriced for the included hardware, but that’s because it’s a totally unique product that also doubles as a speaker." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester
Convenient carrying handle
Solid 1080p gaming performace
Front ports are inconveniently located
Performance is middling
Small but capable, the Lenovo C530 is a serious piece of hardware in a portable package. It has the latest 8th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 32GB of RAM and up to 256GB SSD, making this computer a true powerhouse in our tests. Fully capable of handling the latest in VR-gaming, you have your choice of NVIDIA’s GTX 1060, 1050 Ti, or 1050 graphics card. It will also last you into future, which takes some the sting out of the premium price tag: the C530 is built with one-touch, tool-free access to all the inner workings you might want to upgrade later on.
The exterior of the computer is just as smart as the inside, with an integrated carrying handle that makes it surprisingly portable. A slew of HDMI and USB ports on the back can quickly become a cable nightmare, but Lenovo has avoided this problem by adding a cable organizer in the back (a rare find on mini PCs).
"If you’ve ever wanted a GameCube that could handle 2019 games, the Lenovo Legion C530 Cube is worth a look." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester
3-year on site warranty
Could use some additional storage
If you’re on the hunt for a capable mini PC for business, the HP ProDesk 400 is an excellent option. Packed with an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the HP didn't buckle under pressure in our testing. If you require even more power, the ProDesk adds two bays and two half-height slots for expandable storage or extra RAM. At 6.69 x 13.3 x 10.79 inches in size, the computer easily fits underneath or on the side of a desk. A total of eight USB ports between the front and back means there’s plenty of inputs for multiple monitors.
As an investment for a small business, the HP is designed to hold up for more than 120,000 hours of use. “Sure Click “ technology protects against malware and viruses keeping both data and client information secure, and HP’s client manager is also included to defend against any data theft. Finally, HP Biosphere ensures that you’re always up to date with automatic updates and security checks.
"The HP ProDesk 400 excels at everyday productivity tasks thanks to its Intel Core i5 CPU." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester
Wide selection of ports
Performance isn't great
With a striking design and affordable price tag, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 310S is a compact PC the whole family can enjoy. Packed with 500GB of hard drive storage, there’s more than enough space for pictures, videos, and applications. The IdeaCentre 310S also includes 4GB of RAM, an AMD A9-series processor, and AMD’s Radeon graphics card that can handle 1080p video playback with aplomb but probably won’t be able to handle 4K streaming.
If the lack of 4K streaming isn’t a dealbreaker, then the Lenovo has plenty of other convenient features. For one, it’s tiny — nearly 50% smaller than the average desktop-class PC. Measuring less than 3.5 inches wide, the hardware is easy to fit on or under a desk. However, the small size didn’t prohibit Lenovo from cramming in a bevy of ports. The front of the computer is adorned with four USB 2.0 ports as well as a built-in media reader for a variety of memory cards. Lenovo has even included a DVD/CD burner, which is often only found on full-size desktop hardware. The addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards ensures the Lenovo can browse and download at fast speeds.
Comes with included keyboard, mouse and VESA mount
Pricey for a ChromeOS computer
If you’re looking for solid performance but don’t necessarily need Windows, the Acer CXI3 Chromebook is a terrific mini PC. It comes equipped with an Intel i7 processor (8th generation), 16GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Even browsing the web with 20 tabs open and streaming 4K video won’t slow you down. Chrome OS isn’t a gaming system, but it can handle some browser-based games.
The hardware itself falls firmly in the mini PC category. Measuring 5.9 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches in size and weighing only 1.2 pounds, it’s lighter than the vast majority of laptops, let along desktop units. The black plastic shell is low-profile and designed to hide the hardware components inside. The front of the computer is well-equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card slot, power button, and a headphone jack. The rear of the hardware adds in more connectivity with four additional USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, USB Type-C and Ethernet.
Bloatware comes pre-installed
No Thunderbolt 3 port
MSI’s Trident 3 Arctic is a small yet powerful VR-ready PC — it's actually one of the smallest VR-ready PCs ever made. Weighing only seven pounds and measuring 13.63 x 2.83 x 9.15 inches, it’s about as big as an Xbox One. For a desktop-grade gaming system, it’s lighter and slimmer than most gaming PCs on the market. It can also sit horizontally or vertically, depending on preference.
The Trident 3 runs on an 8th Gen Intel i7-8700 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card, which is enough power for playing 1080p games with ease. For a lower price tag, you can also get configurations with an Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1050 graphics card. The PC comes with 16GB of memory, a 256GB Solid State Drive and a 1TB hard drive, which is enough storage and memory for gameplay and multitasking with Windows 10. MSI’s proprietary cooling system means that when the PC is running, its fans are practically silent. But what’s most convenient about the MSI Trident 3 Arctic is its front-facing VR port, which makes plugging in VR headsets easy.
The only drawback is that the PC needs a pretty clunky external power adapter to work. But that aside, the MSI Trident 3 Arctic is a massively powerful VR gaming PC in a tiny, silent package.
Plenty of inputs
Integrated GPU isn't great
The ASUS VivoMini has long been a staple of the mini PC market and for very good reason. For home computing, the ASUS strikes an appealing balance between performance and price. Powered by a 7th-generation Intel i5 processor, the computer can also add up to 16GB of separately-purchased RAM and any 2.5-inch full-size SSD. Installing extra components isn’t for everyone, but the result is worth the time involved. That’s even truer when you consider the ASUS’ integrated 4K UHD graphics, built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. Two front-mounted USB ports include fast charging for quickly powering up portable devices, and the four-in-one card reader provides yet another option for media downloads.
The 5.1 x 5.1 x 2-inch footprint is incredibly compact, and the VESA support for wall mounting makes it the perfect media machine. ASUS even saw fit to include their media streaming applications and Remote Go! apps for boosting its entertainment capabilities. It’s easy to connect the VivoMini to your HDTV using HDMI input or DisplayPort++ connectivity.
Excellent performance for its size
Thunderbolt 3 support
DIY form factor means spending extra for parts
If you aren’t put off by the glowing skull, Intel’s NUC8 mini PC kit is a fantastic do-it-yourself option. The smallest NUC (Next Unit of Computing) Intel has ever created, it’s also the most powerful. Inside the compact hardware rests an 8th-generation Intel i7 processor with Radeon RX Vega M graphics with 4GB of dedicated memory. This kit is powerful enough for even hardcore PC gamers, so it’s more than capable of handling everyday processes like multitasking, streaming 4K video, or video editing. There’s even support for up to six 4K or 5K monitors with a variety of HDMI, Thunderbolt, USB and DisplayPort inputs.
As a do-it-yourself kit, getting the most out of this machine requires a little extra legwork. There’s support for up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, but it must be purchased separately. The same goes for solid-state storage, which is easily installed after removing a few screws. If you aren’t afraid of a little assembly, the NUC8 has a winning combination of power and price that makes it a great option for do-it-yourself types.
All essential connectivity options included
Struggles with resource-intensive tasks
No bigger than a streaming media dongle (e.g. Amazon Fire TV stick) in size, Intel Compute Stick is a truly mini PC you can take with you anywhere. It plugs into the HDMI port of your monitor (or TV), and instantly transforms it into a full-blown computer. The plug and play PC comes with Intel's Atom X5-Z8350 CPU, paired with 4GB of RAM. There's also 64GB of eMMC storage, and a built-in expansion slot lets you add microSD cards of up to 128GB in size. Despite its diminutive chassis, the Compute Stick doesn't skimp on necessary I/O features at all. It includes two USB Type-A (one 2.0 and one 3.0) ports, and a microUSB port that's used for powering the device. There's also dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless connectivity, with the latter coming handy when connecting peripherals like mice, keyboards, and even gaming controllers. Intel Compute Stick runs 64-bit Windows 10 Pro, and can be configured (within BIOS) to automatically boot after a power failure.
The HP Pavilion Wave is undoubtedly one of the most unique desktop PCs on the market, thanks to its innovative chassis that broadcasts sound across an entire room. For around $750, the Pavilion Wave is a great product for a home theater, or for minimalists who want to shed extra devices. You can safely store your old speakers and PC for the Wave’s B&O-pedigree sound, just don’t expect to do anything too computationally intense.
Emily Ramirez has written for MassDiGI and the MIT Game Lab as a blogger and narrative designer. She is active in the innovative media scene, tinkering with the latest tech in XR to understand how the average consumer could benefit from it.
Size - If you’re buying a mini PC, size is probably pretty important to you. While all the devices on our list are compact, some are more so than others, ranging from the size of a gaming console down to a deck of cards. Often times, the larger it is the more powerful it is, but the tradeoff is up to you.
Processing power - You’ll find that most processors are made by Intel and their power depends on how many cores each processor has: the more cores and the faster the speeds, the more powerful the processor. Depending on your use, though, you may not need the most powerful processor out there.
RAM - RAM, or random access memory, is the hardware inside your mini PC that temporarily stores data. RAM lets a computer work with more information simultaneously, which usually has a big effect on total system performance. So how much do you need? We recommend at least 4GB of memory, although PCs will have an option to add more via a microSD card or hard drive.